In the global fashion fraternity, wardrobe malfunctions are becoming increasingly frequent. I have some friends in the entertainment industry, and they say that such a thing as a wardrobe malfunction is, many a time, a desperate PR idea to get the tabloids and magazines overflowing with improper pictures – at least, the relatively unknown or not-mentioned-lately model gets some sort of publicity. Being famous in an infamous way is the mantra of today, perhaps!
But, in the horde of such desperate efforts by upcoming models and wannabe members of the entertainment fraternity, there are those who don’t have to try too hard to be hysterical and front-page worthy. It’s just the way they are – it’s a way of life for them. Marilyn Manson is one of them. So is the current music sensation, Lady Gaga. Her unique style sets her apart. She goes around wearing anything, or, at times, even nothing – well, almost nothing. And that’s her character – she’s eccentric. I love eccentric. And that’s why I, sort of, like the music that she produces.
The Hyundai Santro, when it came out in India in 1998, was hailed as the ugliest car around. But I liked it. I liked it so much that I bought it. It looked unique to me – madly different to something like the Daewoo Matiz or the 800. And, it’s clear for everyone to see what the Santro did to the Indian small car space – it quite simply took the market by storm, if I may use such a clichéd statement.
It’s a déjà vu moment for me – the Honda Brio has much the same appeal as the Hyundai Santro had. It looks like nothing else on the road currently, and is an instant attention grabber. Like Lady Gaga, the Honda Brio is eccentric. That flat all-glass back is simply sensational. Many journos at the drive ridiculed it, but I think it’s quite a thing to have. The only drawback is that visibility in the rains, or the winter months, will be murdered – because there’s no demister available. But, even that could prove to be an immense opportunity if you’re one of those mushy, romantic couples – if you get my drift.
If you recollect, Honda showed a small car concept at the last Auto Expo, and the Honda Brio is the end result of that exercise. The design alone has me sold on it, and I might as well end my report here. But the Brio is a lot more than just being unique in the way it looks. Sure, you may argue that the interiors look as bare as community members on a nude beach, and that it looks extremely small – so small, in fact, that it should fight it out with the i10 and Ritz. But, as the famous saying goes, appearances can be deceptive.
It may not take the fight to the Indica, but the Honda Brio is actually sufficiently spacious on the inside. It looks small, but makes use of its short wheelbase in such a smart way that it liberates enough room for two above-average sized Indian men to sit one behind the other. I liked the seats too – the front ones are very well bolstered, and hug you in just the right way. And the rear bench, too, is up there in terms of comfort.
It’s not made cheaply, but an image of cost cutting is cast when you see exposed metal door panels peeking at you from behind
the door pocket. And this feeling is escalated when you start to miss some equipment on the inside like a CD player and height adjustment for seats.
But the Honda Brio is all about its naughty character. When your right foot digs deeper into the footwell, it laughs like a kid who knows he’s been mischievous. The Honda Brio’s engine is the same eager unit that you’ll find in the Jazz – and, as history has proven, it enjoys being revved. I was asked by a fellow motoring scribe about how many times I saw the ECO light come on – which it does if you drive sensibly. I was left a bit baffled, because I didn’t see anything like that pop up on the instrument cluster even once. Heck, I didn’t even know if something like that was a standard feature! Now, do you see how engaging the engine is?
You can’t drive it sedately if you’ve got even a drop of passion for cars in your blood. The low-end poke isn’t something that’ll make your heart melt – in fact, you’ll curse it when you cross 3,500 revs, because that’s when the engine starts to erupt and makes the right noises too. It’s the best soundtrack in a small car that we have on the market today. Period!
The mid-range is strong, and the engine revs happily all the way to its 6,500rpm redline. While the gearbox is slick and extremely positive, I was a bit apprehensive about the electric power steering. You see, most of the artificially assisted units that I’ve come across have been imprecise and lacking in feel – but Honda has managed to pull a trick or two out of the bag by configuring the steering geometry on the Honda Brio. The steering is accurate and delivers sufficient feel. Handling too is enjoyable for the most part – the turn-in is crisp, and the grip is reasonably adequate. Still, having proper fun is difficult because the low end grunt is quite miserable – it takes an eternity getting back on the power when going up snaky roads. The Honda Brio may be the fastest small car in the market, but it wouldn’t hurt having more torque lower in the band. The ride – cushy and compliant most of the time – becomes choppy when the speed rises on undulating roads and dipping tarmac. On the whole, though, the Brio is a very well rounded package.
Recently, in one of my articles, I tried to characterize a metrosexual – since that seems to be ‘in’ thing at the moment. The Honda Brio, I think, is a metrosexual. My colleague, Prithvi, is looking to replace his ride, and wants a fun car that also has something he calls ‘zing.’ He’s also metrosexual, or looks the part at least. The Honda Brio is all the car he’d want to have then. So, Prithvi – go buy it.
|Engine||1,198cc / 4 cylinders / 16 valves / SOHC / i-VTEC|
|Transmission||5-Speed Manual, front-wheel drive|
|Power||88bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Torque||109Nm @ 4600rpm|
|XFactor||Lady Gaga of small cars – weirdly impressive to look at, and huge fun when provoked!|